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What is our Pedagogical Approach for Ear Training?

The system at, SonicFit, and MyMusicianship trains students to develop frameworks.  For pitch, students recognize where each pitch fits in a framework- be it diatonic, highly chromatic, or even atonal. It is more useful, for example, to know that the two pitches are RE and SOL, and less useful to know that the interval between them is a fourth. (The later is great theoretical reinforcement and certainly builds knowledge, but is not the primary tool.) When sight reading, one will become exhausted if chasing note to note, mentally identifying each interval as it approaches. We really just don’t think that way. 

Even when a passage is atonal, we ground ourselves in a framework whereby we know what A to C is because we also know A to C# and A to B – we know the framework. In the exercise “melodic fragments,” students begin to train on fully chromatic frameworks within a small range, and later expand to larger ranges by utilizing octave displacements.

For chromatic tonal melodies, SonicFit trains students to recognize the chromatic pitches according to where they fit in the diatonic scale- which is largely informed by their tendency resolution. FI is easy to find when one learns it according to its resolution to SOL. Like basic scale degree recognition skills, this skill can be developed using the "scale degree exercise."

The framework for rhythm is meter and beat divisions.  It is of primary importance to know that the second note begins on beat four; this is what we hear. From it we may derive that the first note, which begins on beat one, is a dotted half note. The framework leads us to determine durations, we do not chase durations from one note to the next, in the same way that we do not chase pitches by intervals one note to the next. All of the rhythmic exercises, thereby, train students to recognize metric or beat division placements. At advanced levels, students must navigate exercises in which the meter and beat divisions change.

Framework understanding, thereby, is the foundation of our pedagogical approach. This however, does not exclude the study of several helpful training tools that can be found here. A well rounded musician knows the same material from many different perspectives, so you will find many different types of exercises.

A Choral Pedagogy

Our pedagogical foundation is considered best practice by many choral directors, and aims to serve those choir directors who agree with these convictions:

  1. that scale degree recognition is fundamental and foundational for all aural skills development
  2. scale degree recognition training, both aurally and in notation, can and should begin before learning any other fundamentals
  3. that a system of syllables assigned to those scale degrees aids in learning their aural placement
  4. that interval recognition is a higher level skill, requiring an understanding of theory; that interval recognition is only introduced after fundamentals of scale degree recognition are proficient and theoretical background of intervals are learned
  5. that metric placement and beat division placement are fundamental and foundational rhythm elements, following quickly after the concept of note durations.

We maintain that the best system for scale degree training is movable DO solfege with “LA” based minor.

Movable DO

Some directors argue for singing on numbers for scale degrees, claiming that people already know numbers and the mapping is more direct- 1 for the 1st scale degree, 2 for the 2nd etc. Using numbers can beneficial if giving an assessment to brand new singers, so that you don’t have to crash-course solfege. However, for a curriculum of learning, We choose solfege because it is much better suited for its purpose, as outlined above, and is easy to learn. more info

LA based minor solfege system

LA based minor is when the tonic for a minor key is LA. This follows both from the derivation of the relative minor from the major, as well as from the modal system in which the Aeolian mode (the minor scale) is LA TI DO RE MI FA SOL LA. Using LA as tonic allows the singer to always know the relationship between the relative major and minor, its ‘modal’ context, and more importantly, to always follow the key signature. The disadvantage of using LA based minor is that students have to re-calibrate their orientation of tendency tones: it takes some training before they feel LA as home base, MI as the Dominant, MI RE DO TI LA as descending triad scale, the strong tendency of FA MI as 6th pulling to the 5th etc. This disadvantage serves as an advantage later in their training, as students learn to tonicize other scale degrees, learn to navigate modulations easily, and learn to sing modal music from the Renaissance.

The huge advantage of LA based minor is that singers follow the key signature. Notes only change their solfege when an accidental is placed on the note. The concept of a raised note can be taught in ear training even before it is taught in theory, and students can aurally grasp a ‘borrowed leading tone’ before even fully learning about keys and scales. more info

Advanced Topics

After students are well versed in these fundamental and foundational skills, they begin to train on more advanced skills. For advanced sight reading and aural comprehension, We believe that students need a large set of skills that they can draw from and cross-reference. The ones listed below represent exercises that isolate specific skills:

   Scale Degree Ear Training
   Intervals and Chords Identification
   Melodic Fragments Ear Training
   Chromatic Framework Ear Training
   Beat Division Ear Training
   Harmonic Bass Line Ear Training

Our exercises are most effect when some choral rehearsal is devoted to related in-class exercises. We highly recommend that you have singers sing in duets following Cerwin hand signs that the director shows with two hands, or break into small groups (even pairs) following section leaders in 'reading' hand signs. Rhythm hand signs showing 16th division of beats can also be used in a similar way.

If having read this you agree with the pedagogical convictions spelled out above, then I hope that you contact me, set up an account, or use the free material available. If you feel strongly against any of the convictions spelled out above, then SonicFit,, and MyMusicianship are not for you, and I encourage you to keep looking for a resource that matches your convictions.